I woke up on New Year’s Day with callaloo on my mind. A Sunday staple in many homes in T&T and across the Caribbean, it is often cooked with crab and shares space on the plate with rice, stewed chicken, macaroni pie, plantains, and ground provisions. Somehow, I managed to reach age 37 without ever having tried my hand at it—despite the fact that my grandmothers used to prepare it regularly, my mouth waters whenever I even think of my Aunty Sue’s version, and one of my friends simultaneously gave me a lesson and a meal when she whipped up a tasty pot on a visit years ago (thanks again for that, Anna!). None of these spurred me into action, however, and looking back I can acknowledge that I have made some interesting excuses over the years for my lack of attempts:
“I can’t find dasheen bush up here”; “I don’t have a heavy-duty wooden swizzle stick”; “Ochroes?! What to do with those?”; and “I don’t know anything about cleaning and cooking crab. No crab, no callaloo!”
Actual excuses, I kid you not, that would make anyone with even a passing knowledge of callaloo preparation let out a long and watery steups. Why? Because spinach is a widely used substitute for dasheen bush; a whisk or blender can stand in for a swizzle stick; there’s no magic to cutting up ochroes/okras; and yes, you can still cook a tasty callaloo without crab.
So anyhow, on the first day of this brand-spanking-new year I cast aside the excuses and decided that it was high time to finally make one of my country’s main dishes. There was already an impossibly large container of baby spinach (which was bought with the best of intentions a couple weeks prior) sitting neglected in the fridge right next to two packs of similarly languishing ochroes. I did a Google search on how to make spinach-based callaloo and went with the recipe from CaribbeanPot.com. Happily, I saw that not only did I have everything I needed (minus the crab), but the process didn’t seem that intimidating after all. So many signs pointing towards callaloo for New Year’s Day lunch couldn’t be ignored.
I’ll spare you the culinary details of the process, but will say that I resorted to using the blender when I thought my arm was going to fall off from all the whisking. When it was finished, a curious Little L who prides herself on tasting everything at least once, came into the kitchen, took a look at my callaloo, and made a face.
“Try it,” I encouraged, holding out a teaspoon.
She dipped it in the pot, took a tentative taste, said ‘yummy’, and asked for a bowlful to tide her over until it was time for lunch. Littler B, on the other hand, wouldn’t let it pass his lips and looked genuinely offended that I would consider offering him a spoonful of thick green soup. Oh well, I guess it’s a tall order to win them both over on the first try. Although, perhaps adding crab to the next attempt may generate enough interest for him to reconsider and take a teensy taste. We’ll see.